Reporting Jim DeFede
Legislative Session Coverage
FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Allen West has long been a Tea Party favorite. His bombastic language and fiery rhetoric – he recently said of President Obama: “I can’t stand the guy, I absolutely can’t stand the guy” – has won him the unswerving support among conservatives. But his tone and style also have a way of embarrassing the old time leadership of the party.
And so when the Florida Legislature started redrawing congressional districts – the freshman Representative found himself without any allies or friends in Tallahassee.
“Well I am an outsider,” West said. “I haven’t gone through the route of state House or State Senate and maybe there is a little bit of cronyism and nepotism up there. That isn’t my concern.”
West said he didn’t try to lobby or exert any influence on how the Legislature redrew the boundary lines to his district.
“That ain’t what I’m about,” he said dismissively.
West even seemed to take pride in not knowing the names of the legislators in charge of drawing the maps
“Is it Cannon or Weathersby or something?”
Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon and Redistricting Committee Chairman State Rep. Will Weatherford – not Weathersby – did indeed finalize the maps that would have turned West’s district from mildly Republican to solidly Democratic.
The new lines for Congressional District 22 would have eliminated Republican strongholds for West around Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens
He also lost Republican precincts in Parkland and Coral Springs
And in their place West was going to be saddled with a large swath of Democratic precincts that stretch from Wilton Manners to Sunrise
“Do you know what the Florida legislature is doing? They are writing Allen West’s district out of existence,” Rush Limbaugh declared Monday during his nationally syndicated radio program. “He’s a Tea Partier, and he got to Washington and he didn’t toe the line and he didn’t shut up.”
Limbaugh even suggested Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney might be involved. He even couched what was happening to West in terms of the larger battle now being waged in the Republican Party – in which Newt Gingrich and Tea Party conservatives were being attacked by the more moderate, establishment wing of the party.
“The Republican establishment, whether it includes Romney or not, is behind [the attack on West],” Limbaugh said.
Limbaugh’s tirade prompted Representative Weatherford to post on his Facebook page this denial: “There are rumors that the Florida Legislature has targeted Congressman Allen West. This is patently false.”
Weatherford argued they simply redrew the lines according to the law and West ended up on the losing end.
“If that’s what stands, then guess what, I am going to do my best to win that district,” West told CBS4’s Jim DeFede last week.
It seems however that West – a former Army Colonel – wasn’t interested in recreating Custer’s last stand.
Instead he organized what he might call a tactical retreat.
In simultaneous announcements Congressman Tom Rooney announced he would seek re-election this year not in his current district – District 18 – but in a newly created congressional district – District 17. That allowed West to announce he was surrendering District 22 to the Democrats and would now run for re-election in District 18 — a district that favors Republicans.
So what is going to happen in District 22 now that West is abandoning it for safer ground?
Late Wednesday, Adam Hasner announced he was dropping out of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate and would run instead in West’s former district.
On the Democratic side, there were two Democrats running in the primary to face West in Congressional District 22 – former west Palm Beach mayor Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy, a vice president of Coastal Construction.
But a Democratic strategist told CBS4 News that the 28-year-old Murphy may pull out of District 22 and follow West to Congressional District 18 and challenge him there.
Murphy would also have the assistance of a Democratic Super Pac that is targeting Tea Party members including West.
But West has more than $2.7 million in the bank and a national fundraising base.